So there you are. Sitting in a frigid waiting room staring at the clock.
Each time the second-hand moves it seems to clang louder and louder.
As you rub your sweaty hands together suddenly your name gets called out, which causes your stomach to hit the floor.
Then you suck in a big gulp of air and take the long walk into the examination room. Eyes glued to the medical assistant’s heels as you hope, wish, and pray that you don’t panic.
But I’m not writing to tell you that some people get nervous when they see a doctor. We all know that happens. I want to tell you about much more than that.
What’s White Coat Syndrome?
The most common symptom of white coat syndrome is elevated blood pressure while you’re at your doctor’s office, but not when you’re anywhere else.
What’s considered high blood pressure? It varies depending on who you ask, but in general if your blood pressure hits 140/90 then you have high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension.
In this regard, white coat syndrome is situational, like the fear of flying for example.
It’s also a specific phobia that most people decide not to treat because in most cases it doesn’t stop you from doing what you have to do on a daily basis.
WSC may cause:
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
WSC is caused by:
- Past trauma
- Fear conditioning
- Repression of emotions
- Pre-existing anxiety issues
Why it Matters
Some studies have shown that people who suffer from WCS may have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease over the long-run.
It’s not as bad as having sustained hypertension, but the risk is there nonetheless, so it should be addressed.
Plus, having WCS also means that you’re more likely to put off preventative or routine appointments to see your doctor, which could increase your chances of missing or ignoring minor issues that could develop into a big problem over time.
Of course, there are things you can do to reduce your intense fear of the doctor, blood pressure cuffs, or even waiting rooms. I reviewed treatment options for WSC in a recent podcast.
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Brayer, T. (2011). About white coat hypertension. Retrieved from: http://getbetterhealth.com/about-white-coat-hypertension/2011.02.21
Chung, I., Lip, G. (2003). White coat hypertension: Not so benign after all? Journal of Human Hypertension, 17, 807-809. doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1001651. Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/v17/n12/full/1001651a.html
Landray, M., & Lip, G. (1999). White coat hypertension: a recognised syndrome with uncertain implications. Journal of Human Hypertension, 13(1), 5. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Klausch, T. (2009). Phobias and overcoming phobias. Retrieved from: http://web4health.info/en/answers/anx-phobias-general.htm#phobias